A leaked European Commission plan to combat cancer envisages a tobacco free generation by 2040 with stricter regulation of e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products, as well as increasing taxes on alcohol, curbing its promotion, and restricting sales, writes MedicalBrief.
The much-awaited ‘Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan’ is being shaped with a strong push on prevention – targeting in particular alcohol and tobacco products, including novel tobacco products like e-cigarettes – writes Gerardo Fortuna for EURACTIV, a specialised media company focusing on European Union policy and politics.
The EU currently has five mission areas – cancer, climate change, healthy oceans, climate-neutral cities and healthy soil and food. These were identified for the Horizon Europe research programme as strategic to the future of EU citizens.
An EU-wide plan to combat cancer has been one of the priorities of Ursula von der Leyen’s Commission when it comes to public health, although the COVID crisis has understandably diverted attention, says the EURACTIV article published on 26 January 2021.
The actions set out in the plan aim to support, coordinate and even supplement member states’ efforts at every stage of cancer care, including prevention and quality of life of survivors.
A draft of the ‘Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan’ obtained by EURACTIV confirmed that it will be based on four key pillars – prevention, early diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care – with seven flagship initiatives and a number of supporting actions.
The draft says the plan is to be considered as “the EU’s political commitment to leave no stone unturned in the fight against cancer”.
The EURACTIV story continues: In this regard, the most ambitious commitments are listed in the prevention part, particularly with the goal of creating a ‘tobacco-free generation’ by 2040.
Since 90% of lung cancers may be avoided without tobacco use, the Commission is aiming to have fewer than 5% of EU citizens using tobacco in 20 years.
This will be achieved, according to the EU executive, through rigorous enforcement of the EU tobacco control framework and its adaptation to new developments and market trends, including stricter rules on novel products such as e-cigarettes and herbal products for smoking, starting in 2021.
According to the draft, the European Commission is considering updating by 2023 the European Council recommendation on smoke-free environments like outdoor public places, recommending “to extend its coverage to emerging products, such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products”, EURACTIV continues.
Furthermore, the Commission considers tobacco taxation as one of the most effective instruments to fight tobacco consumption, particularly in deterring young people from taking up smoking.
In order to reduce the attractiveness of tobacco and related products, the Commission is expected to announce a review of several EU laws such as the tobacco products directive, the tobacco taxation directive and the legal framework on cross-border purchases of tobacco by private individuals.
Alcohol is the other target
The other target of the Commission’s initiative for beating cancer is alcohol, which accounts for more than 15% of cancer-attributable deaths in men and 30% in women, reports EURACTIV.
Replicating the efforts in reducing tobacco use, the Commission is set to review EU legislation relating to the taxation of alcohol and to cross border purchases of alcohol by private individuals.
The EU’s action will also involve the reduction of online marketing and advertising of alcoholic beverages, in order to reduce the exposure of young people to these products.
“The Commission will also propose to stop stimulating consumption of alcohol via the EU promotion programme for agricultural products,” the draft of the plan says.
A more controversial phase-out from the EU promotion policy for agricultural products is expected for foods linked with cancer risks, such as red and processed meat, which constitute a big chunk of the promotion programmes, writes EURACTIV.
A proposal of mandatory labelling of the list of ingredients and calorie content, as well as health warnings on the label of alcoholic beverages, is expected to be unveiled by the end of 2023. The mandatory front-of-pack nutritional labelling announced in the EU’s food policy, the Farm to Fork strategy (F2F), will have a key role in addressing the joint effects of unhealthy diets, obesity and physical inactivity.
EURACTIV concludes: Lastly, the Commission will be committed to addressing environmental issues by aligning the EU’s air quality standards with the World Health Organisation’s guidelines and reduce exposure to carcinogenic substances and radiation through continuous updates of the carcinogens and mutagens directive.
Cancer fight requires optimism but also prudence, says top researcher
Any European Union policy aimed at eradicating cancer must combine optimism, prudence and the realism of scientific evidence, the new boss of the EU research team on cancer, Walter Ricciardi, told EURACTIV in an interview.
A professor of hygiene and public health at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Rome, Ricciardi was recently appointed as the new head of the Horizon Europe Mission Board for Cancer, wrote Gerardo Fortuna of EURACTIVE on 10 December 2019.
The EU research and innovation missions take their cue from the Apollo 11 space mission, as they aim to also achieve something that everybody previously thought was impossible.
The five EU mission areas – cancer, climate change, healthy oceans, climate-neutral cities and healthy soil and food – were identified during the negotiations for the Horizon Europe programme as strategic to the future of EU citizens.
Ricciardi said that all the experienced researchers sitting on the EU cancer mission board were impressed by the approach of the Commission and the European Parliament.
“These mission boards are more decision-shaker than decision-taker,” he said, adding that they will work to offer solutions that ensure competitiveness and well-being in the EU.
A plan for beating cancer is among the priorities of the new Commission and its president, Ursula von der Leyen. “But we must be extremely careful about this,” Ricciardi warned, adding that “in our work, we will try to bring together the optimism that there must always be with prudence and realism of scientific evidence. There are many reasons to be optimists on cancer, but at the same time, we have to be cautious too,” he said, according to EURACTIV.
EURACTIV story – Commission envisages tobacco-free Europe by 2040 in leaked cancer plan (Open access)
EURACTIV story – Cancer fight requires optimism but also prudence, says top researcher (Open access)
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